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11 November 2021

The Best Photography Festivals Open this November

11 November 2021 - Written by Simon Hall

Photo Vogue Festival (Italy), Jakarta International Photo Festival (Indonesia), and Head On Photo Festival (Australia) are among the highlights on the photography calendar this month. Learn all about the exhibitions and public events they have in store.

Photo Vogue Festival / Milan, Italy & Online / 18 - 21 November

© Silvana Trevale, Photo Vogue Festival 2021 exhibitor

Photo Vogue Festival was created back in 2016 as an inclusive space for dialogue and interaction among the different photographic genres. Throughout its first five years, the event has established itself as an important stage for the promotion of photography culture and a platform to explore many of the pressing issues of our time. This sixth edition of PVF will be both physical and digital, with exhibitions, screenings, and talks taking place at Base Milano with the majority of the events set to be broadcast on the digital platform photovoguefestival.vogue.it.

The exhibitions this year will revolve around the theme Reframing History: an exploration of projects that aim to present an alternative view, reinventing neglected historical figures or questioning stereotyped narratives. The largest showcase features 35 artists selected by an international jury through an Open Call initiative that attracted over 25,000 images and 2,500 photographers from 98 different countries. It is composed of projects that have reclaimed an alternative way of telling a tale, from projects that reframe overlooked historical figures to ones that reclaim an idea of beauty that has been stereotyped. Helping to achieve what Chinua Achebe called “a balance of stories” is one of the founding missions of the Photo Vogue platform. There's a great African proverb that Achebe quotes often, "until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter." This edition of the festival is looking at the lions' stories. Alessandro Iovino, Diego Moreno, Dimakatso Mathopa, Elena Helfrecht, Elliott Verdier, Fabiola Cedillo, Laura Pannack, River Claure, Silvana Trevale, and Suleika Mueller are among the names on display.

A second show curated by Vogue Italia’s photo department and the festival jury looks to explore and expand on the take of Black creators on the concept of Reframing History. From alternative and counter-history to a radical reinvention and critique of Western art canons and mythologies, these artists shift the spotlight onto territories that have been left in the shadow for too long, carving a luminous path that is now influencing, shaping, and subverting the contemporary photography panorama worldwide.

These two shows will be complemented by a diverse supporting program. Highlights include a special projection of the PHmuseum 2021 Women Photographers Grant shortlisted projects and portfolio reviews with a host of recognised industry professionals including Alessia Glaviano, Amber Terranova, Bernadette Tuazon, Bertan Selim, Bruno Ceschel, Chiara Bardelli Nonino, Gwen Lee, Irene Opezzo, and our own Giuseppe Oliverio. The festival’s “ask me anything” panels on Saturday 20th will be live-streamed to give as large an audience as possible the opportunity to ask questions directly to the panelists. This new format is thought to help photographers that never get the chance to ask even the most basic questions to photography experts. To learn more about the festival, visit vogue.it.


Jakarta International Photo Festival / Jakarta, Indonesia / 13 - 28 November

© Marco Garro, Jakarta International Photo Festival 2021 exhibitor

Education and Welfare. These are the two missions at the heart of Jakarta International Photo Festival, one of the newest festivals on the circuit and the first in Indonesia. Facilitating a forum in which photographers can exchange ideas; forging connections that are vitally beneficial for Indonesia’s photography ecosystem; raising general awareness about the important role photographers play in society; and providing a platform for photographers to promote their works to the intended audience – JIPFest is all this and more.

Under the co-curatorship of Sayed Asif Mahmud, Kurniadi Widodo, and Ng Swan Ti, the theme of this second edition is Space. “Physical and the virtual spaces. Public and private places. Dimensions and environments. The universe, the spiritual realm, to the inner being. The theme of JIPFest this year has many faces and interpretations”, they write. As a result of an Open Call, there will be 15 photographers and artists from 12 countries showcasing works that explore and respond to those nuances, including the likes of Chris Bunjamin, Hiro Tanaka, Jack Lewis, Joel Jimenez Jara, Marco Garro Pardo, Maria Lax, Pranabesh Das, Putu Sayoga, Rita Khin, Roger Grasas, Selim Korycki, and Sina Niemeyer.

For its fringe program, JIPFest presents nine events organized by different communities across Indonesia with various formats, from discussions and workshops to portfolio reviews. There will also be a series of public lectures among which Alain Compost will share his thoughts on how wildlife photographers can contribute to saving the environment, Erik Prasetya will reflect on how the relationship between the photographer and the subject is a timeless issue, and Yudhi Soerjoatmodjo will explore strategies to make a change by integrating exhibitions, education, and audience engagement. A special projection of the PhMuseum 2021 Photography Grant winners, intensive curatorial workshops, and a photobook exhibition round up the events. Go to jipfest.com for more information.


Head On Photo Festival / Sydney, Australia / 19 - 28 November

© Nichole Sobecki for National Geographic. Part of the Women On The Move exhibition at Head On Photo Festival 2021

750 artists. Over 100 exhibitions. Head On Photo Festival is back, bigger, better, and bolder.

Ever since it was established over a decade ago, Head On has been dedicated to promoting the work of photographers at all stages of their career, encouraging innovation, and raising awareness of many of the world’s most pressing issues. The primary aim of the curators is to bridge Australian and international photographic markets through the organization of an open call to select the exhibited work, with proposals judged solely on merit without the artists’ names or pedigrees.

In the exhibition line-up this year Uma Manasseh captures the energy and freedom of her generation before lockdown and the fragmented attempts to maintain connection since; Tom Goldner looks to flatten the hierarchy between human and non-human life by allowing us to recognize ourselves within the violence we inflict on the natural world; Younes Mohammad documents the sacrifices of Kurdish Peshmerga in their fight against terrorism and their ongoing struggles in navigating post-conflict life; Roger Ballen creates a new persona as a way to explore the human psyche and forces that make us who we are including those we repress and never celebrate; Jacqueline Lukowski captures the fragility of the fleeting window between a girl’s childhood and adolescence through her relationship with dolls; and, in a group show titled Women On The Move, female photographers explore the stories of women migrants worldwide and the specific challenges they face before fleeing their home country, during their journey, and when resettling.

Away from the exhibitions, Head On Photo Festival has also organized a varied public program. Among the highlights, multidisciplinary artist Garry Trinh will host a workshop designed to guide participants through a comprehensive process for curating their own work; Marco Bok will lead another workshop focused on how to understand the meaning behind imagery; and the likes of Phil Bayly, Jenny Papalexandris, Michaela Skovranova, Fabian Muir, and Jennifer Blau will be attendance for artist talks. Visit headon.com.au for more details.


LagosPhoto Festival / Lagos, Nigeria / 4 November - 4 December

© Zanele Muholi, LagosPhoto Festival 2021 exhibitor

Launched back in 2010, LagosPhoto is a platform dedicated to the dissemination of contemporary photography that aims to unite emerging African artists with established industry professionals from around the world. The festival is designed to encapsulate individual experiences and identities across the African continent and is embodied in the exploration of historical and contemporary issues as well as the sharing of cultural practices.

The central theme this year is Memory Palace, with programming set around exploring human relationships with memory and the generative potential of photography and images to spark the visual intellect and restore decaying and lost memories. Memory Palace is experimental and performative in its dissemination with a clear attempt to remediate, restore, and reimagine heritage and historiography as it relates to Africa and its diasporas. The festival delves deeper into the urgent burning and unresolved topic of restitution and the role of photography in addressing its intractability, remediating, and accelerating the agency and hopes of repair whether through fantastical story telling—pseudologia fantastica—characterized by the creation of eloquent and interesting stories, sometimes bordering on the fantastic; or grasping at faint memories interspersed with facts and critical fabulation (to borrow the term coined by Saidiya Hartman). To spark this off, the curators have taken their cue and begin by delving into their archives by (re)presenting The Afronauts, an iconic body of work by Magnum photographer Cristina de Middel. It is a project that encapsulates the methodology and philosophy of LagosPhoto whereby personal narratives, critical fabulation and research trumps reportage about the lives of “others”. It is also fitting at this time because LagosPhoto firmly believes that as we gradually emerge from the pandemic syncopated global systems, we emerge into a new timeline that takes its agency in the present moment. All future imaginaries become present realities. Osborne Macharia, Zanele Muholi, and Joseph Obanubi are also exhibiting artists whose work LagosPhoto believes firmly emerge into this new timeline. Osborne Macharia and Joseph Obanubi represent the very sharp end of the exhibition around futures and the festival wants to bring these futures into the present timeline by assessing the fitness for purpose.

Interlaced among the shows are a series of supporting events, the most notable of which are a masterclass on the art of portraiture with Nigerian photographer Ike Ude presented in conjunction with The Smithsonian National Museum of African Art and a projection of the PhMuseum 2021 Photography Grant winners. To learn more about what’s on, visit lagosphotofestival.com.

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ALSO OPEN THIS MONTH:

Noorderlicht Photo Festival / Groningen, The Netherlands / 7 August – 28 November

With the theme The Makeable Mind, the Noorderlicht International Photo Festival 2021 explores the relationship between visual culture and reality: how is our thinking guided by a rampant image culture, unprecedented technological possibilities, and lightning-fast internet connections? Departing from photography, the 28th edition focuses on the entire spectrum of the image, both analogue and digital: from traditional photography to digital and interactive images, internet glitches, machine learning, virtual reality, street guerrilla actions, performances, sound installations, and deep fakes. The list of exhibitors features the likes of Alfonso Almendros, Elena Efeoglou, Ilona Szwarc, Joel Jimenez, Santiago Martinelli, Rick Pushinsky, Diego Moreno, and Sheung Yiu.

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Photoville / New York City, United States / 18 September – 1 December

Returning for a tenth year under the directorship of United Photo Industries, Photoville exists to amplify the voices of visual storytellers and connect them to a worldwide diverse audience, with immersion and interactivity at the heart of what makes the event so successful and popular with visitors. Over 100 curatorial partners have come together to realize Photoville 2021 and the festival is set to present over 60 outdoor exhibitions across New York City. A sample of the extraordinary work on display includes Pat Kane’s documentary series focusing on how Indigenous people in the Northwest Territories of Northern Canada are moving towards meaningful self-determination by resetting the past; Hannah Reyes Morales’ moving exploration into how caregivers prepare children for sleep in environments fraught with hazard while highlighting the unique role the lullaby plays in placemaking; and Irma Bohórquez-Geisler’s portrayal of the daily life within the local Mexican-American and Mexican-immigrant communities from within New York City.

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Check out our festivals page to get a complete view of what's coming up on the photography calendar over the next few months.

Written by

Simon Hall

Reading time

12 minutes

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